It sounded like a good opportunity for a 20-year-old British model. Come to Milan for a photo shoot.
It was set up by her U.K. modeling agency, allegedly for an ad campaign.
What happened next, though, is out of a horror movie.
According to Italian investigators, when the woman (who has not been named to protect her privacy) arrived at an apartment for the shoot, Lukasz Herba and another man injected her with Ketamine, an anesthetic drug used to sedate horses. After she passed out, Herba and his accomplice stripped and photographed her. They then covered her head with a pillowcase, taped her mouth shut, stuffed her in a suitcase and drove her in a car trunk to an isolated house about 120 miles outside of Milan.
“Think what could would have happened if she suffered from asthma,” Italian prosecutor Paolo Storari said on the state police website.
The victim was handcuffed to a chest of drawers and kept her trapped in a bedroom for six days, investigators say. The space had been rented using false documents, according to Italian media reports.
While she was trapped, Herba took pictures of her (many while she was drugged) and posted them online on a secret website. On that page, he attempted to auction her off for a starting price of $353,000 in bitcoin. He also reached out to her modeling agency demanding $300,000 to stop her from being sold at auction.
The woman was released, reports say, only after her captives found out that she was a mother. “You have a 2-year-old child and our rules exclude mothers,” the kidnapper allegedly told her, according to a report in the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Once she was freed, the kidnappers allegedly threatened to kill her if she told anyone and made her sign a contract promising that she’d pay $50,000 in Bitcoin before the end of the month.
She didn’t stay quiet, and Herba was arrested. He reportedly has since confessed.
“The psychological pressure on the girl has been extreme,” Serena Ferrari, a police officer in Milan, told the Telegraph. “She was very afraid.”
Police say there may be other victims. After Herba’s capture, authorities searched his computer and phone. They reportedly found a cache of photos of the woman, including some while she was living in London. Investigators also say they found evidence that Herba is a member of the “Black Death Group,” an organization that traffics people illegally on the dark web, and had organized other auctions for kidnapped girls. According to the BBC, it’s not clear whether the other women exist or were invented.
Herba is a 30-year-old Polish man who lived in Britain at least part time. He was arraigned in Milan court on charges of kidnapping and illegally holding a person captive.